But it’s possible to wilt too long. A “flash” cure — in which the leaf dries before it has a chance to cure — can occur if you wilt longer than six days, said Boles. And if climate conditions aren’t favorable, it can happen sooner.

“For instance, if temperatures are above 90 degrees and you cut burley and leave it down, it might flash cure in three days,” he said. In that situation, he might cut his burley and take it straight to the barn.

Paul Denton, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist, advises that a three-day wilt is ideal. “You should wilt burley no more than five days, and three or four days is really long enough,” he said. “If you wilt longer than five days after cutting, you give it the opportunity to dry out. That can set the conditions for flash cure."

Once your tobacco is hung, he adds, be ready to close the barn and control humidity if you have the capacity to do so.

Boles departs from tradition when it comes to hanging burley in the curing barn. Instead of spearing the stalks, he puts a notch near the base of each one and hangs it on a wire strung in his curing structure.

He notches using a mechanical notcher he made himself using a regular table saw with double blades. He rakes the stalk over it.

To date, their curing structure has been an old tobacco greenhouse they adapted for this purpose. But when they needed a little more curing space for the 2010 crop, they went in a different direction.

“We purchased some curing frames from a farmer who has retired,” Boles said. “They are made of wood and strung with wire. We put a top over them, and when they are filled, we wrap plastic around them.” 

His goal is to cut and hang his burley by the third week of August. “Then I have from the end of August to the first week of October to do the flue-cured work.”

After hand-harvesting the bottom flue-cured leaves, he harvests the rest with a multi-pass mechanical harvester and puts it in box barns.

The burley, meanwhile, hangs in the curing structures until November. From that point on, it is handled by the four children in the two Boles families.

The kids strip it into three or four grades once it is cured, then bale it for delivery to the buyer. Once it is sold, they get to keep the proceeds.

“We call it our family money,” Boles said. “That is one of the benefits of burley for us. The main thing, though, is that burley allows us to get a little extra use of the tobacco equipment we have and of our labor.”